Apr 04, 2019 | By Cassandra Napoli
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Aug 02, 2016
By Nick Paget
This season the talking point of the mens shows was the surge of Demna Gvasalia’s ‘ugly armies’ at Balenciaga and the rise and rise of his own house Vetements, as an unstoppable force of nature. Built into that was a key message (that wasn’t subtly inferred, in fact as fashion editors we were beaten over the head with it), the message that: brands, collaborations and the more legally murky world of appropriated branding have all become such a huge part of the menswear design toolbox. It’s now at the point where adding chest logos, sleeve tapes and embroidered motifs is just like adding any other trim or embellishment.
An illustration of this logo-shopping, name-dropping approach to design was seen at Gosha Rubchinskiy’s Florence show, where his super-young boys strode out into the evening sun emblazoned with not one or two but 4 iconic brands (Levi’s, Kappa, Sergio Tacchini), all worked into the collection with a casual ease.
The prize, though, goes to Gvasalia’s Vetements show, which consisted almost entirely of pieces made in collaboration with other brands, from Juicy Couture to Mackintosh. The show also featured prominent Reebok branding on the sportier pieces, incongruously mixed with their trademark thigh-high boots.
Off-White’s collection featured soccer training tops emblazoned with Umbro’s logo. While, London-based designer Christopher Shannon has long appropriated brands and corporate logos in his collections, which speak of the importance of branded sportswear among the soccer tribes of his native Liverpool.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, since both the modern day young designer and the consumer they are creating for, have been raised on a culture of logos. In fact for Millennials our perspective is entirely coloured by a cultural landscape built on brands, from branded entertainment venues to TV shows to clothing. The generation who grew up in the 1980’s were among the first for whom fashion and, in some quarters, the groups you hung out with were defined by the hype and magnetic pull of fiercely competitive brands such as Nike and Adidas. Earlier examples exist though, such as, the allegiance of Mods to sports brands such as Fred Perry.
By the 1990’s, sportswear’s journey into the lexicon of everyday menswear was almost complete. Men (and boys) in particular, had a tribal approach to brands that meant by choosing Kangol or Fred Perry, you demonstrated the circles you moved in and what your allegiances were. Sportswear was, by now, an acceptable part of street and casualwear, defying its previous connotations of leaving the wearer somehow underdressed and certainly open to the judgements of others. In particular, the hip-hop scene obsessed about labels and brands, saw the advent of rappers spawning sportswear brands of their own.
The Noughties saw the phenomenon switch into overdrive with the advent of collaborations. Now taken for granted, the notion of powerhouse brands teaming up with either their contemporaries or an edgy, flavour-of-the-month label to magically multiply both their audience and their credibility was a revelation. One that still causes loyal and possibly insane devotees to camp outside stores and break the internet. And once the high street fast-fashion destinations got a clue about the rewards (both financial and from a marketing perspective) of collaborating, the game had played out completely.
Or had it? This season’s Vetements collection marks a return to form, a pure unadulterated celebration of logomania and branding. Even the setting – Paris’ Galleries Lafayette – seemed to suggest the notion of shopping around for the very best component parts with which to build cutting-edge outfits. As WGSN’s resident denim head, Sam Trotman notes, “As jeans were the first product that broke Vetements into the fashion zeitgeist, their collaboration with Levi’s seems fitting. While the experimental shapes and proportions of Gvasalia’s jeans might not have looked like your typical 501’s, they align with Levi’s brand heritage by the fact that they too are 100% authentic.” It’s this alignment with integrity that allows Vetements to channel these iconic brands without recompense or litigation. The very essence of these collaborations means that, in a very ‘fashion’ way, brands trip over themselves to work with the hottest property in the business.
The cyclical nature of fashion means that this level of branding mash-up can’t last on the high fashion catwalk; but there seems to be no let-up in the logo led collab-culture that brought us here. The level of brand awareness is currently at such a peak, that it’s now a fundamental part of how the Instagram generation recognises their surroundings, not just the reason why they ‘like’ their friends’ outfits.
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